Ireland wary of under-fire England
Ireland coach Declan Kidney refuses to buy into talk of England's decline heading into Saturday's RBS 6 Nations clash at Twickenham.
Martin Johnson's side have taken a pummelling in the wake of their dismal 17-12 victory over Italy with critics rounding on their one-dimensional gameplan.
But Kidney cites last season's hard-fought 14-13 victory at Croke Park and England's unbeaten start to the Six Nations as evidence of formidable opposition.
"Last year there was some negative press over England but they still finished second in the championship," said Ireland's head coach.
"We only just got the better of them last season - and that was at home.
"Now we're going to Twickenham and they're coming off the back of two wins.
"England teams are always very strong. They know us very well with (England defence coach) Mike Ford having coached the lads before.
"In attack they're very hard to break down - they don't concede too many tries."
Ireland are reeling from their 33-10 mauling by France, a result that destroyed their Grand Slam defence.
They have used the ensuing two-week break to reflect on a match which saw them brutally swept aside by the buccaneering Six Nations favourites.
"It was good to have the weekend so that we could regroup and take stock. It's handy time in terms of your development," said Kidney.
"England have restructured domestically so they had the down weekend as well.
"Both sides should be that bit fresher so space will probably be at even more of a premium.
"We made the best use of our time and hopefully we'll benefit from it."
John Hayes is expected to lead Ireland out at Twickenham as the Munster prop prepares to become the nation's first player to win 100 caps for his country.
Hayes is notoriously publicity-shy and may yet decline captain Brian O'Driscoll's offer to enjoy his moment in the spotlight by appearing first on the pitch.
The air of mystery surrounding the indestructible 36-year-old has helped transform him into a cult favourite with supporters and Kidney admires the fact he will join the ranks of rugby's centurions having operated in the most unforgiving position for a decade.
"To reach 100 caps is an absolutely phenomenal achievement, especially at tighthead given how fit and strong you need to be," said Kidney.
"He'll enjoy the week and we'll let him do that."
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